We asked Paris romance expert Je T’aime Me Neither, aka Lily Heise, to reveal her favorite under-the-radar hot spots—because crowds of selfie stick-waving tourists aren’t sexy (unless exhibitionism’s your thing.)
Here are her top five secluded and seductive alternatives, perfect for a first kiss or an unforgettable proposal.
Secret Royal Garden, 75003
The Marais has a number of hidden romantic parks, but the Jardins des Archives Nationales is one of my favorites. Wow your chéri as you pass through the imposing door on rue des Francs Bourgeois and into the elegant courtyard of l’Hôtel de Soubise. Built in the early 1700s for one of Louis XIV’s mistresses, Anne de Rohan-Chabot, it was one of the last private mansions in the area. You can tour the refined apartments of the Prince and Princess, supremely decked out in gilded woodwork, vast mirrors and frilly rococo wall paintings for a small entrance fee.
At the far right of the courtyard is the discreet entrance into a network of gardens. Opened in 2011, they were once the private gardens of the various private mansions that make up this city block. Hidden alcoves adorned with pergolas, flowers and benches are made for lovers. Exit via the even more secret north entrance then wander the charming streets of the northern Marais to explore galleries, boutiques and cafés.
Passage to Romance, 75006
My ultimate romantic spot in the Left Bank, the Cour du Commerce Saint André, isn’t so secret anymore. But a block away is this lesser-known gem. Tucked off rue Dauphine is the picturesque Passage Dauphine, opened in 1825 during the city’s passageway heyday. However, it’s different from the covered galleries of the Opera district. As you pass through its gate, you’ll find a wide, peaceful and pretty oasis. The passageway is also home to the beautiful tea salon, L’Heure Gourmande, where you can savor the tranquil, amorous atmosphere.
Lover’s Lane & Passy Village, 75016
Another former suburb of Paris, a few relics of its country past remain among the 16th arrondissement’s posh Haussmannien city blocks. Start by finding the tiny rue Berton, one of the narrowest streets in the whole city. Protected by high stone walls, it used to marked the border between the sprawling estates of the Lords of Auteuil and Passy (the 1731 boundary sign is still standing). Poet Guillaume Apollinaire described this street as “one of the most scenic corners of Paris” in his 1918 book Le Flâneur des Deux Rives.
Around the corner is the Maison de Balzac. Home to the great romantic-era writer from 1840 and 1847, it’s now a small museum in his honor (Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm, free of charge). It features a very romantic garden, ideal for a lover’s break. From here, head towards rue de l’Annonciation, the “downtown” of Passy village, where you can find many restaurants and shops. Head south and you can glimpse the Eiffel Tower and the Seine.
Behind La Butte, 75018
The most secretive and romantic aspect of Montmartre isn’t the panoramic view you’re elbowing to get a photo of. Instead, La Butte is best approached from the back—and at night. Get off at métro Lamarck and you’re already entering the enchanted world of quirky romantic, Amélie Poulin. Stroll up rue Lamarck, turn left on rue de la Bonne and you’ll get a full view of the Sacré Coeur from behind. Steal some kisses on the small staircase at the end of the street.
From here, avoid the Basilica entirely and take rue Saint-Vincent, which takes you past a sleeping vineyard and some the loveliest homes in the area. You can stop by the Lapin Agile and channel the naughty spirit of Picasso, one of this petit cabaret’s best-known patrons and seducers. Carry on down rue Saint-Vincent and on your left, you’ll reach the bottom of another alluring staircase. Up top is the Place Dalida and a romantic view of rue de l’Abreuvoir. To the right is the dimly lit Allée des Brouillards… or wait and you may just have the staircase all to yourselves.
Go down rue Simon-Dereure and across the street is the lovely Villa Léandre with its charming cottage-like house. Finish your balade with a glamorous nightcap at the sexy Hotel Particulier—and don’t miss the view of the Eiffel Tower from the steps just beyond the entrance.
Country Living in the City, 75020
Like Montmartre, parts of the 20th arrondissement still retain a country feel, harking back to the days when the area was a series of villages on the outskirts of the burgeoning city. If you arrive by métro line 9, descend at Porte de Bagnolet and take the exit for Boulevard Mortier. Here, you’ll find country-style maisons. Take the staircase on rue Géo-Chavez and you’ll arrive in a labyrinth of vine- and flower-laden houses around rue Irénée-Blanc and rue Paul-Strauss. Head towards rue de Bagnolet, where you’ll find the medieval Eglise Saint-Germain de Charonne. The village ambiance continues down rue Saint-Blaise, the old main street of the area. Stay on Bagnolet for another block and finish your walk with a sophisticated cocktail at the always chic Mama Shelter.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Lily’s new book, Je T’Aime… Maybe? Lily shares more of her hilarious and unbelievably romantic misadventures in Paris. From heart-sick policemen to rebellious rock stars, from homeless poets to castle-owning Counts, Lily gets real when it comes to finding love. Get the book here.